Sunday, August 26, 2012

Its never too late to finish strong: The Bulldog 50K

Warning: this is a lengthy write up for a lengthy race J

This weekend I ran the Bulldog 50K trail race in Malibu California.  I had signed up for this race last year but was warned by my coach at the time that it would be too difficult and I shouldn’t do it.  This year I had enough mileage as a base and was really excited to give it a go.  Here is a little recap of how it went, my thoughts on the trail and what I learned.

Race Day: I arrived to the race site in plenty of time.  The race started at 6:30am so it was still dark outside.  I forgot to bring a headlamp so after getting my bib I sat on a picnic bench until it got light.  The darkness disguised the terrain around me and I didn’t know what I was in for.

Start line: I lined up with about 500 others at the “start” of the race which was a simple line across the road.  I realized I didn’t get a timing chip and started to panic!  I asked another racer about it and he said they didn’t give them out, they just use stop watches etc.  OK, that’s kinda weird, but at least I’m not missing anything.  A “Ready Set Go” from the announcer and we were off!  Although I was passed by just about everyone I felt my pace was good and was happy to be running.  The racecourse followed fire roads and some single track along creeks, hills, and river beds and I was feeling good. 

Mile 4-7.5: At mile 4 we hit the first aid station and I was feeling great.  It had been hilly but I had been pushing through it and had been doing my best to jog the hills.  I didn’t stop for anything at the aid station and kept going straight into what seemed like a never ending hill.  My breathing got a little harder and my legs started to burn.  A girl asked me if I had done this race before and I told her no.  She then went on to say that I probably should not try to jog the hills and I was wasting too much energy.  Who was this girl to critique my running and strategy!?? I was a little irritated at her unsolicited advice, but about 50 feet later decided I would try her method and started power walking the hills.  We turned corner after corner and I kept waiting to see a flat or downhill section but it didn’t come.  My calves and hamstrings were on fire and I started having some negative thoughts.  Who would design a stupid race like this?  Why do I sign up for these things?  Who do I think I am? I’m not a runner!  What am I thinking doing the ultra beast, I’m going to drop out of that!   While walking up the hill I texted my ride to say it was going to take me at least an hour longer that I thought… if I didn’t quit.

I had high goals coming into this race and when I had to walk I realized those goals were not going to be met.  The race was designed to be 2, 15 mile loops with the option to drop out after the first loop.  At this point about an hour into my race my mind was set on dropping out after 15 miles.  There was no way I wanted to or could do this section again.

Mile 8-15: Hope!  Finally after about 4 miles of straight uphill I saw some volunteers. At this point I was racing alone as everyone had passed me and I was so happy to see them. They cheered for me and told me I was at the top of Bulldog Mountain and it was all downhill from here!  I am usually hesitant to take these claims from volunteers as they can often just say things to keep you going but I went with it and they were 80% right.  I love going downhill and am very fast downhill!  I let my legs go and flew over rocks, ruts, and sticks faster that I had gone the entire race.  My mood instantly changed and I felt like I was making up a little time.  At mile 9? there was another aid station.  I was feeling like a million bucks at this point so wasn’t going to stop but they tempted me with some red vines licorice and I had to take a piece.  Past the aid station was a really rocky section of single track but I still seemed to be going mostly downhill.  I can’t say I remember too much else.  At mile 13 I could hear people cheering and I began to get excited.  I hit the aid station and there were about 10 very enthusiastic volunteers congratulating me!  Volunteers make all the difference.  I refilled my camelback, had a few orange slices and continued on.  Between mile 13-15 was all flat so I wasn’t moving quite so fast.  I could feel the fatigue building up from my previous efforts on the hills.  Luckily this was a short section and I hit the 15 mile point – the halfway point where I had planned on quitting.  Again this station was filled with cheering volunteers and they had so much energy it seemed to overflow onto me.  I ran through the aid station and thought: “I’m going to do this thing!”

Mile 15-19:  More flatness.  The energy of the screaming fans faded quickly and I became lonely.  The trail was flat and I was getting tired.  There were no mile markers on this race – only aid stations – so it was hard to gauge my speed.  I felt I was jogging slow – about an 11-12 minute mile and I knew I should be going faster on the flats.  The second half of this race had cut off times.  They were printed in an email but I couldn’t really remember what they were and without any mile markers it was hard to tell if I was moving fast enough.  I wished I had brought my GPS watch.  Curse this race with cut off times and no mile markers!  How can they do that!  What if I get taken out of the race for going too slow!  A little negative thinking again.  Around mile 18 I could feel a couple blisters forming on my right foot.  Should I stop, should I push through?  I had some Band-Aids with me I could use.  I had to stop.  It was the right thing to do otherwise I would hurt the rest of the race.   I stopped and sat on a rock and took both my shoes off to evaluate the situation.  I had one large blister on my toe and a hot spot under my foot.  Instead of using the Band-Aids I decided to use one of my socks from my left foot.  I always wear two pairs of socks when I run to reduce friction and they come in really handy for a quick blister fix.  I now had three socks on my right foot and one on my left and felt instant relief.  Mile 18-19 became hilly and I thought I was getting back into the dreaded hill section.  At mile 19 I hit an aid station and asked them if I was the last racer?  No – I was doing good they said.  Hard to believe but I had made the cut off for the first aid station!  I was happy.  The volunteers poured ice water on my head and refilled my camelback and I was off.

Mile 19-22: This was the uphill.  This time it was different though. I didn’t push myself as hard because I really didn’t like the pain I had felt on the first lap.  I walked fast, but wasn’t struggling.  I ate a few of my snacks and decided to take a few pictures.  I was moving slow and still alone on the course and was really hoping to make the next cut off.  After at least 50 minutes of hiking I saw a blue shirt in the distance and knew this section was almost over.  I was over the hump.  The rest of my race was going to be easy.  I was happy and felt a sense of energy.   I was proud I hadn’t quit, and proud that I had done this section again – however slow it may be.

Mile 22-28: At mile 22 there was an aid station.  I felt good on water so didn’t get any.  I ate a few pieces of salted potato and then discovered my most favorite racing snack ever: the OTTER POP.  I was offered a grape Otter Pop and although I hadn’t eaten one of these for 20 years I happily accepted it.  The frozen juice tasted so good and to hold the frozen treat in my hand felt amazing.  My entire body felt cooled down and rejuvenated.  What a genius of the race director to have these as a snack… and who would have thought.  I continued on the race and began obsessing over Otter Pops.   I wished I had gotten the cherry flavored one as well.  Would they have them at the next aid station?  I couldn’t wait!  Although it was mostly downhill from here I think the amount of time I had spent on the course began to take its toll on me.  I had been on course for at least 4.5 hours and it was now very hot.  I still ran as fast as I could but my memory seemed to fail me.  I ran into uphill sections I hadn’t remembered the first time around.  The shadow of the orange tape blowing in the wind started to look like snakes on the trail.  A crow cawed overhead and seemed to circle me.   I missed my Otter Pop and thought “what I wouldn’t do for another one right now!”  I would have done 100 burpees at that point for another Otter pop.  The course rolled up and down, more up than I had remembered but at the downhill sections something great started to happen.  I started seeing people and I was no longer alone on the course.  I saw people that I hadn’t seen for hours.  I couldn’t believe it but I began to catch people, and I began to pass people!  I was so happy.  At mile 22-26 I passed people for the first time in the entire race!  I passed at least 8 people and this made me so proud.  As I got nearer to mile 28 I could hear fans cheering and I got excited.  This race was almost done!  I was happy.

Mile 28-31: I hit the aid station at mile 28 ate some oranges.  I didn’t refill my water because the race was almost done and I thought I had some left.  Between mile 28-31 the race was really exposed and I was in direct sun.  The trail was dusty and I started getting really hot.  I was trying to push hard since I had so little mileage left and was happy to be almost done.  I sipped on my camelback and heard the sound of air and water through the hose.  I was out of water!  Crap.  How stupid of me to not have refilled it!   Oh well, nothing to do about it now but push forward.  I ran as fast as I could through the next few miles and it seemed like it was taking forever.  I was hoping to hear the voices of fans but didn’t.  Finally I saw the hallway point I had passed at the previous lap and some volunteers recorded my bib number and directed me forward.  You’re almost done.  You’re almost done. You’re almost done.  I chanted this like a mantra and my feet began to move faster.  I followed cone after cone around a parking lot, past a few trees and finally through the finish line!  I had done it!  I had finished.  I finished the last three miles fast and I finished with a smile on my face.  I was so proud I did it and happy I didn’t quit. 

I left this race with a sense of accomplishment.  In the middle of the race I had wanted to quit and die, and was cursing the racing world.  In the end I was happy, strong, and felt proud.  No matter what happens during the course of the race, it is never too late to turn it around, and finish strong!  I know I will remember this race during some of my toughest racing moments to come, and I know it will serve as a reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other.   No matter how slow it may seem, or how far behind you think you are, as long as you are moving forward – you are a winner!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Training, Training, Training....

Tomorrow, August 22nd, is exactly one month away from the day the three of us will attempt our respective wins in Killington Vermont for the Beast and Ultra Beast. We're not tackling this lightly. Corinne has been running with additional weight in her pack to gear up for the 26.2 lbs of team weight. Andi spends her mornings climbing to the top of Stone Mountain with a sandbag. I guess I'm the one kind of lost in between. Up until this last week, I have been undecided about Vermont, really unsure of which race I would even run... Yesterday, I made a decisive decision that if it doesn't kill me, it will make me stronger. I will compete in the Ultra Beast next month, and do my best to win. The last 3 months have left me stressed with work issues and super busy with my kids. All the while, I was making decisions about school and my personal life that would impact the next ten years moving forward. I don't know what next year will hold for me in terms of obstacle racing. Do I make the jump to the Ultra or do I continue to hit my marathon training hard? I've had to push those decisions aside and focus at the task at hand, winning the Ultra. Will it be easy? No. Will I live through it? Maybe. (I actually don't even think that is an understatement. Ha ha.) Until September 22, I have to do my best to jump in and make each and every day count.

Today, (a day that should have been a day off) was spent up at 4:15 A.M. to log a few miles before the sun came up. I ran 10 miles, dropping every mile to do 25 pushups, then finished up with 50 more at the finish.

By the time I returned home, I was covered in gravel and dirt from the trails, but by 7:00 A.M. I had already put in a solid training session. Sometimes waking up can be the toughest thing, but is followed by a sweet reward when my first WOD is completed early. 

Tonight, I'll have some time to myself to finish my second WOD in my home gym. A few months back, my boyfriend turned my garage into a Spartan training gym for my birthday. The final piece of equipment (my NordicTrack Incline Trainer) was just assembled yesterday. It will be so nice to be able to slip in a second workout without leaving the kids. 

 Sadly, my jogging stroller hangs on the wall now, and is used only rarely.

 My Q tests out the treadmill (it wasn't on) while Beck looks on.

In the month that lies ahead, I'm going to focus on my rope skills since the traverse rope was a disqualifying obstacle in the World Championships last year. I have no question that Andi, Corinne, and I will be ready for our respective races, and will be so excited to celebrate on Saturday night when our competitive heats have come to a close (for Corinne and I, this will likely come after 8-10 hours on the mountain.) I look forward to seeing and meeting some of you in Killington. Until then... -Ang

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Superhero Scramble

So here ya go.... We were so excited to get our blog off the ground that we forgot to blog on our amazing trip to the Superhero Scramble. Margaret has two great reviews of our adventure on We just wanted to give a quick shout out to Sean Ace O'Connor for inviting us out and putting on such an amazing race, and Spartan Race for supporting us on our journey!

It was the first time that Margaret, Andi, Corinne, and I were able to compete as a group. Follow this blog as we get our women's team off the ground and running (literally.) We are so pleased that we were able to lead our team to a first place finish and put Spartan women on the map in team obstacle racing. I'm sure it will be the first of many amazing races to come.

Our weekend was filled with many highlights including trying to convince Batgirl to jump off the plank, (it never happened,) rolling around in the mud, and carrying tires through the forest at 10:00 P.M. We were lucky enough to hang out with 3 different Spartan men's teams that represented Spartan Race by kicking butt right along with us.

I am so proud to call all of these amazing athletes my friends and family. I can't wait to see everyone again and carry tires, sandbags, or cement blocks through the night. :) Until next time....-Ang

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What's in my CamelBack?

I almost always run with my Camelback.  Why you ask?  For many reasons.  First of all I get hot very fast and knowing I have plenty of water with me helps me deal with the heat.  It is not only physically helpful, but mentally reassuring.  Second of all - with just a small Camelback I can carry many items that have been vital to me on some of my longer runs. 
So - here is what I bring and why.  Not all of these items come into play every time I run, but I am thankful to have had each one of them at some point during the last year.

 1.  Advil - Sometimes I have used this for sore knees or back on a long run.  Most days I don't use it and don't need it but its good to know I have it just in case.
2.  Muscle Nitro - If I'm doing a long run or hike - 4+ hours - I take 8 of these capsules.  They help rebuild muscle while your working out.
3.  Money - Because of where I live I usually run on the roads.  Its good to have a little cash in case I want to stop and get a snack or drink, or in case I get injured and need to call a cab to pick me up.
4.  Snacks - I like mini Clif Bars, mini Luna Bars, Shot Bloks, Fruit leathers, Gummies and sometimes trail mix.
5.  Chap stick - Its less messy than sunscreen - and isn't just for the lips.  You can put it on your forehead, shoulders, cheeks, and just about everywhere.  Chap stick can also be used like vaseline to help with spots that might be chafing.
6.  Mace - Just in case - you never know when your going to run into the boogie man!
7.  Pocketknife - in case it gets personal with the boogie man! Or in case you need to cut a shoe lace, pull out a splinter, cut some mole skin, or..... 
8.  Oral Rehydration Salts.  I don't always use these but if its a hot day and I know I'm going to be working out or running for half a day or more I will.  I usually only put half the packet in my water.  It does make the water taste a little salty but drinking that salty walker lets me know I'm getting my electrolytes.
9.  Bandaids - These aren't perfect but they do help for blisters or chafing.
10.  Imodium and Anti - Nausea pills.  I'd love to say I have never had to use these but I can't.  If I go on long run I could be 10-15 miles away from a bathroom.  If you start to get sick - and I think you know what I mean - it can lead to some serious dehydration and weakness.  Its better to be safe than sorry and these babies work pretty quick.
11.  V-Max weight(s) taken from my weight vest.  These weights are the same size as a mini Clif bar and weigh about 2kg each.  I usually run with 2-3 of them to add a little weight. 
- Corinne

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Always Remember to Smile

On race day I find myself wondering, "Why did I sign up for this? Why would I want to do this?" At the starting line as I battle 100s of butterflies in my stomach I ask, "Will I be able to complete this race? Am I ready?" However, as I look around I see the faces of my friends and of strangers, all with excitement on their faces. I feel the energy in the air around. And I smile. We may have all signed up for different reasons, and we may all have different goals, but we are here and ready to go.

The announcer gets us pumped up. The anticipation is killing me. So I smile. A smile minimizes the butterflies. A smile calms the anticipation. The Aroos are shouted, or the gun goes off, and the race is on. Because I'm a slow starter the pack quickly passes me, but I smile, I am here!

During the course of the race, the hills may be brutal and the obstacles difficult, but the fact that I am actually here and able to run just makes me happy. Yes, I want to win, yes, I want to do well, yes, I have something to prove to myself. However, above all else I must remember why I'm here, because this is fun and even if it doesn't feel good at the moment, it will. I must be grateful that I am able to not only have the opportunity to race, but to have the privalege to be in this beautiful place among so many wonderful people.

I always take a few moments amongst the pain and the torture to my body to smile and take in the smells, sounds, and sights of the event. Whether I am on the trail alone, or among a hard-breathing pack, a smile always gives me the little extra push I need to keep going.

And then of course, the finish line. Who can help but smile when you cross? A smile of triumph, a smile of joy, a smile of gratitude, whatever your smile may be for, don't forget to smile! -Andi

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mascara, Eyeliner, and why I (sometimes) wear cotton....the girly side of obstacle racing

I am not a girly girly and never have been.  When I get muddy, soaking wet, and dirty, I dont look so good.  I don't feel pretty, and I don't want to be photographed.  The thing is though, that I am photographed.
There are photographers everywhere at Spartan Race and the other obstacle races.  And at the end of the day, when the race is done, and I'm all cleaned up - I love to look at those photos, post them, share them, and brag about them!  So.... this is why I have been known to wear maskara, eyeliner, and even (Brace yourselves!!!!) COTTON while racing! 
This may not be a mainstream trend, it may be looked down upon by others, but I promise you..... I am not the only one who does it, and you too can get away with it.  I am happy to say that I have won races wearing all of the above girly items mentioned :) 

OK - so why would I ever wear cotton?
I wear cotton because it fits my hips and gut area!  Trust me, I would actually love to wear the spandex like bootie shorts that some of my friends can get away with but those + my hips = super sized bulging muffin top (NOT FLATTERING).  If I feel like I have a muffin top I am going to be self conscious and this will not help my racing.  If I feel I look athletic, I will be more confident and likely race better.  I am not dissing my body, I'm fine with my body, I'm just being honest.  I have a little extra around the hip region, my barb wire scars on the love handles prove it.  When your love handle gets caught and sliced twice by the barb wire, you know its sticking out! 
I will say that I did not wear my favorite cotton shorts to a Spartan Race without testing them at a less competitive "other race".  When soaking wet and muddy they do sag a little, but nothing distracting, and nothing more than any other pair I have.  I love the animal print on my cotton pants, and I love the bedazzled booty that says "LOVE PINK" (I have the pink leopard shorts too).  These bedazzled sequins set off the security check at the airport coming back from the FL SuperHero Scramble and these bedazzled sequins survived electroshop therapy at tough mudder.  I'm not saying that everyone should wear cotton to race, I'm just saying that if you want to, you can.  It is best to test it out first - by wearing it in the shower or the pool, but it can and has been worn successfully.  Cotton blends that have elastic seem to hold up better than 100% cotton, and cotton seems to get less saggy as shorts/pants than tops.
On a final note I will say that my choice to (sometimes) wear cotton is budget related as well.  I know there are a few companies out there making good looking bright colored, non-cotton, shorts that I would love to wear - but they can be expensive!  As much as I would love to buy the latest and most stylish non cotton gear, I would rather spend my money getting to the next race :)

Make my eyes look pretty for the camera! - Waterproof mascara and eyeliner:
I often wear waterproof mascara and eyeliner to race.  I have been teased by many people for this including the anouncer at a very popular race series.  I wear this "make-up" because it makes me feel pretty and confident and if I feel that way I race better.  It is as simple as that.  I sware I am not a vain person and anyone who knows me will tell you.  I just like to look good kicking butt and rocking the races! 
I know I am not alone in my mascara and eyeliner habbit.  A group of girls recently posted about it on the Spartan Social website, wondering what would be the best brands.  Here's what they came up with:
  • Mabeline Pink tube
  • Stilla
  • Falsies
  • Blinc Kiss Me
  • Este Lauder Waterproof
  • Cannonball
OK girls - Happy Racing and for the guys out there - I promise to not blog about something so girly next time!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gear Review- Woman's V-Max 30lb weight vest by

In hopes of increasing the intensity of my training I jumped on the weightvest wagon, and like some phenomenal Spartans before me - decided to order myself a weight vest.  I had heard recommendations from the great Hobie Call, and from many woman in the Spartan Chicked community.  I felt like this was the new training tool I needed to keep up in the racing arena and to train my legs for carrying sandbags, tires, or whatever Sparta wanted to throw at me.  The weight vest was $130, but shipping was free which was a plus.  So here is the review:

Good: It is a good fit for the "woman parts", nothing is smashed and it fits comfortably. 
The weight vest is 30lbs but it has about 14 pockets for individual 1kg weights.  This was great because it allowed me to take out the weights small increments at a time and really customize the load on the vest.  When I first got the vest I really wasn't fit enough to wear it so I would take out 2-4 of the 1kg weights and put them in my camelback to get my joints used to the load. 
The weight vest also came with a detachable water bladder option so I could hydrate while using it.  The padding on the vest is very thick so it doesn't rub on my bones and it helps hold the load of the weights.

Bad: When I wear this vest I look like a suicide bomber.  This may be partial purchaser error - next time I would have ordered pink or yellow, or any color but black.  I look like I have 14 tiny bombs strapped to me, and the hose from the water bladder looks like some sort of wiring device.  People hide their children when they see me coming and I feel I will be the victim of citizens arrest or have the cops called on me.  For this reason the vest hasn't made that many public appearances. 
There are Velcro straps around the waist section of this vest.  The Velcro is thick and sticks to itself well but it hangs over the edge of the cloth section and scratches at your midsection. 
The vest is difficult to put on.  Perhaps this is just how these things are but it is not an easy process.  Originally I thought I might use this vest during an obstacle race and take it on/off if an obstacle was too difficult, but after using the vest a few times I feel a ruck would be more fitting for racing. 

Overall:  I am glad I purchased this vest.  I will have to make some artistic modifications to it to avoid getting arrested while wearing it.  I will probably never race in it but it, and the weights it came with will be a good training tool for me.  The 30lbs is really too heavy for me to "run" with, but I can hike with it and hopefully will work up to running with it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A New Beginning...

Corinne, Andi, and I started racing Spartan this year, we became fast friends. As the top athletes of the Spartan and Tough Mudder race series, we are happy to announce our new blog. Keep up to date on race and gear reviews, Spartan and Tough Mudder training, nutrition info, and more. We eat barb wire for breakfast and know that you do too! Stay tuned.... -Ang